An unknown organization is hosting an exclusive speaking event in St. Cloud on Tuesday. The subject: The growing scourge of Sharia law in America.
Some residents are worried, suspecting that “Shariah 101” with Dr. Jeffrey Baumann is yet another anti-Muslim forum intent on dividing longtime St. Cloud natives and the city’s growing population of Somali refugees.
Baumann, of Coon Rapids, made headlines back in 2011 when he opposed plans to build a mosque in Plymouth. “Land use, aiding the enemy (Muslims), is treason,” he said at the time.
Still, Baumann maintains that he doesn’t want to be called an Islamophobe, and his speech on Tuesday will have nothing to do with race. He says he’s qualified to talk about Sharia law because he grew up in Saudi Arabia, lived there for 20 years, and started reading and researching Islam after 9/11. He promises everything in his presentation, which centers on the history of Islam and the Muslim world, will be factual.
“The basic core message is that Islam is a complete replacement societal system,” Baumann says. “There’s no particular separation between the religion aspect and the governing, lawmaking aspect of a society.… And because of that, it’s incompatible with our American way of organizing ourselves. Just like Abraham Lincoln said, a society cannot exist half-slave and half-free.”
Crisis is inevitable with increasing numbers of Muslims moving to America, Baumann says. He doesn’t know exactly what form that crisis will take, but his best guess is something that looks like the crisis in Europe, with “all the rape and the crimes that are happening, how Switzerland banned minarets because of their concerns, how France banned the hijab because of their concerns.”
Baumann adds that American Muslims are already asking for too many accommodations, citing the firing of 150 Muslim workers at a Colorado Cargill plant in a dispute over prayer breaks.
Others in St. Cloud are concerned about Baumann’s talk. Amber Michel called the organizers — known only as Margaret and Kathleen — for a ticket. She was told that invitations were sent only to people on their email list, and that they would be verifying IDs at the door at Michael's Restaurant in St. Cloud.
Michel has been trying to spread the word about the private event, as well as the public comments of Baumann and Sen. David Brown (R-Becker), who is also scheduled to speak.
Last April, Brown made a questionable Facebook post that suggested Sharia law was taking precedence over the American Constitution in Minnesota courts.
We asked Brown for some examples of those those cases. “There are five cases in Minnesota where [Sharia law has been brought up in court]. That’s not to say that the foreign laws won out, but those laws were considered in the courts. It has happened in Minnesota courts, and it is happening across the country.”
He further cites a book called, “Shariah in American Courts,” which lists all the cases where Sharia law has been mentioned, state by state. It's published by the Center for Security Policy, a D.C. think tank favored by Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann.
Brown confirmed that he’s gotten a number of emails and phone calls from people chiding him for taking part in Tuesday’s event. However, he insists he has no ill will toward American Muslims, and his sole purpose at the meeting is to talk about a bill that he is proposing. It would bar any foreign law from outweighing American constitutional rights in Minnesota courts.
“I’m going to speak on a bill to better educate people,” Brown says. “If there’s a group of Muslims who asked me to speak, I’m happy to speak on a bill that I’ve got in the Senate. It doesn’t mean that I’m hateful and intolerant. This is my point of view.”